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Mid-Round First Basemen - Fantasy Baseball Draft Values and Targets

Joey Votto - fantasy baseball first base rankings sleepers MLB DFS lineup picks

Welcome officially to the 2022 fantasy baseball season! Now that an MLB deal is in place, a lot more fantasy drafts will be taking place – and we're here as always to guide you through it. Once you reach the middle rounds of drafts, everyone is looking to draft players with upside that can provide a great return on value. You can afford to start taking a risk or two on a variety of different players, including emerging prospects, overlooked veterans, players returning from injury, or even talented players who may have some playing time concerns. The early rounds are critical and the late rounds are where you can take your chances on dart-throw sleepers, but the middle rounds can absolutely make or break your roster as those picks are going to make up roughly half of your starting lineup.

Today, we're looking at some middle-round first basemen for you to consider drafting in your season-long leagues this season. Are their ADPs undervalued? Will they make significant fantasy contributions and become a mid-round draft target that you're going to want to prioritize? Read on to see our take.

Our editors have hand-picked these specific MLB players for your draft prep enjoyment. Normally only available to Premium subscribers, the five outlooks below are meant to give you a taste of the in-depth analysis you receive with our industry-leading 2022 Draft Kit. Be sure to subscribe today and start reading all of our in-depth 2022 player outlooks, and many other premium articles and tools, available exclusively in our 2022 Draft Kit.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Josh Bell, Washington Nationals

Washington Nationals' first baseman Josh Bell bounced back in 2021 after a disastrous 2020 campaign. He reduced his strikeout rate from 26.5% in 2020 to 17.8% in 2021 and increased his xWOBA from .297 to .366. Overall, the 29-year-old slashed .261/.347/.476 with 27 home runs, 88 RBI, 75 runs scored, and a .823 OPS over 568 plate appearances in 2021. Bell's Statcast data shows that the Nationals' first baseman had strong plate discipline and was a significantly better hitter against righties. His Hard Hit rate is 93rd percentile; fantasy managers can expect a solid season with the upside for more in 2022. Bell is under team control until 2023 and should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs hitting cleanup behind superstar Juan Soto.

Steamer is projecting the former Pittsburgh Pirate to slash .261/.352/.486 with 31 home runs and a .352 WOBA over 147 games. According to RotoBaller's Expected Draft Values, Bell's Steamer projection makes him excellent value at his current NFBC ADP of 135. The Nationals slugger should provide fantasy managers with solid power and counting stats at first base.

--Brad Camara - RotoBaller

 

Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies

Rhys Hoskins was limited to just 443 PAs in 2021 due to an abdominal tear that landed him on the IL on two separate occasions, but he put up Hoskins numbers when on the field: .247/.334/.530 with 24 HR. He is expected to have a healthy offseason and be ready for Spring Training, so last year's injury is this year's buying opportunity at an ADP of 145.18. Hoskins has one of the most extreme batted ball profiles in the majors, hitting a whopping 50.9% of his batted balls into the air. Combined with an 18.8% HR/FB and favorable Statcast metrics such as a 17% rate of Brls/BBE and an average of 95.8 mph of airborne exit velocity, he's a virtual lock for 30+ homers if healthy.

All of the flies also mean that his BABIP will be low, making him somewhat of a batting average liability even though his 24.4 K% isn't that high for a slugger. Hoskins usually makes up for that with an elite BB%, but that fell to 10.6% last year due to a slightly more aggressive approach at the plate (44.4 Swing% vs. 40.2% career). Roster Resource expects Hoskins to hit second for Philadelphia, adding plenty of counting stats to his projection as well. Hoskins is a great name to call on draft day if you need a power infusion.

--Rick Lucks - RotoBaller

 

C.J. Cron, Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies' first baseman C.J. Cron slashed .281/.375/.530 with 28 home runs, 92 RBI, 70 runs scored, and one stolen base over 142 games in 2021. The Rockies slugger finished the season strong, slashing .337/.408/.643 with 14 homers over the final two months. He signed a two-year, $14.5 million extension with Colorado during the offseason, with the majority of his production coming from the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. The 32-year-old posted a .445 WOBA and mashed 19 of his 28 homers at home last season. He is expected to hit cleanup for a mediocre Rockies lineup but plays in the most hitter-friendly park in baseball. He's increased his launch angle; as a result, he averaged 21 homers with a .486 slugging percentage over his last three seasons.

Steamer is on board with Cron being productive in 2022, projecting a .363 WOBA with a .268/.359/.509 slash line with 30 home runs. According to RotoBaller's Expected Draft Values, Cron's Steamer projection makes him roughly fair value at his current NFBC ADP of 133. Cron should provide fantasy managers 25-plus homers and is a borderline top-10 first baseman in 2022 fantasy drafts, especially in leagues that reward OBP as opposed to batting average.

-- Brad Camara - RotoBaller

 

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

I don't think anybody saw a 36-homer season coming from a 37-year-old Joey Votto. It had been since the 2017 season that Votto had been an above-average power hitter, and he had totaled just 38 homers between 2018 and 2020 (341 games played). There was a clear change in approach for Votto in 2021. He posted his highest swing rate (43.9%) since the 2010 season and was surely swinging the bat harder with the intent of hitting more home runs. He posted his highest barrel rate (17.2%) and launch angle (18.2 degrees) by far, although keep in mind those statistics have only been kept since 2015. His strikeout rate was also the highest of his career by far (23.8%). These things do not happen by random chance, there was a concerted effort by Votto to sacrifice contact for power, and it is hard to argue that it wasn't the correct choice.

One would suspect he would keep that approach in 2022, which should lead to another high home run count, but you cannot expect a good batting average or an elite on-base percentage at this point. There is also the risk that he loses a bit of bat speed at age 38. There are no certainties with Votto this year, but I would feel pretty confident about him helping your fantasy team in the home runs category, which makes him worth considering at his current ADP of 158

-- Jon Anderson - RotoBaller

 

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. - Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had fantasy managers concerned early in 2021 but turned it around from June onward. He finished with a .276 batting average, 21 HRs, 84 RBI, 62 runs, and one stolen base over 141 games. Gurriel Jr.'s Statcast data was decent, placing in the 61st percentile for Barrel%, 65th percentile for HardHit%, and 75th percentile for max exit velocity. It wouldn't be unusual if these improved next season after a huge September in which he barreled balls 19.7% of the time and posted better or similar marks previously in his career. The Rogers Centre should play up Gurriel Jr.'s power, ranking as a top-two home run park two of the past three seasons. His strikeout rate decreased to 18.9%, but after inadequate discipline (37.3 O-Swing%, 27.6 CSW%), the rate should be back above 20%.

Nonetheless, his BABIP was .305, the lowest of his four seasons, and his career .266 xBA with a 20.2 K% gives a good idea of how he'll hit moving forward. After trying to steal four bases in a short 2020, the native of Cuba only attempted three last season, successful once, and his once 75th percentile sprint speed was in the 41st during 2021. However, Gurriel Jr. will be in the middle of a loaded Blue Jays lineup, so 80 RBI and runs should be easy to attain. His ADP is 140, a good price for the kind of offense he'll provide, especially with Myles Straw, who's exclusively a base stealer and run-scorer, going around pick 127.

-- Spencer Seguin - RotoBaller



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